A: I have been told that it is just about time for me to knock the chip off my shoulder and settle down.
I get wired pretty fast and not always for good cause.
My wife says that often it is embarrassing for her to be with me and it is clear, from watching my four-year-old son, that my temper tantrums are not doing my kids any good.
But I don’t know how to go about changing this. It is easy to get riled, but it seems impossible to relax and let things go.
Q: I think that it would be unethical of me to begin writing to you about your “chip on your shoulder” without recommending that you begin your process for recovery by making some appointments with a good mental health counsellor. Through counselling, you might begin to better understand your quick temper and develop some personals strategies for better dealing with it. That has to be helpful.
In the meantime, let me talk to you about forgiveness.
Our spiritual leaders have been telling us for years, actually for centuries, that forgiveness is the path to peace and tranquility. They might be right.
When you learn to forgive, you open the door to overall better relationships with your friends, neighbors and community. You cut down on your personal anxiety, you are less likely to get depressed, your overall health is better, you might sleep and eat better and driving down the highway you are less likely to get into a car accident.
What does it mean to forgive? It does not mean to forget. If someone has wronged you in the past unless something has changed, chances are that he or she will wrong you again in the future. Forgiveness does not mean pretending or living in an unreal world. Forgiveness simply means letting go of the resentments, thoughts of revenge and obsessive hurts and disappointments in someone else.
To forgive is to put yourself into another person’s lifespan. Perhaps you may be able to empathize with them, appreciating some of the feelings they have while struggling to survive in a difficult world. Maybe you simply need to understand that at times all of us are inexplicitly irrational, inconsiderate and hurtful, just as the person who hurt you was. That does not excuse your culprit, but it makes it easier for you to let go of those hard feelings that are doing you absolutely no good.
As you engage in the process of forgiveness, and if you are doing so with the ultimate in personal honesty, you are likely to find yourself caught in guilt for some of those things that you yourself did, some of which were likely not very good.
Isn’t that great? You can do something about yourself to get rid of the guilt. It is a self-determined moment. You can fix it. But you cannot fix another person, even if you forgive them. Forgiveness does not necessarily lead to improved relationships with other people, nor does it mean that they will suddenly polish their own angel wings and dust off their halos en route to a life without sin.
It just means that you are going to be the better for it and that you are going to deal with them with less hostility and anger. You might even lose your chip on your shoulder, all of which leads to that wonderful axiom — the more you forgive others, the less you have to forgive yourself.
Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.